ATLANTA - Gov. Nathan Deal on Friday signed legislation that removes baiting restrictions on south Georgia deer and hog hunters.
Deal signed the bill at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Ga. saying hunting is an economic engine for rural stretches of the state.
"People come from all over the world to hunt our prized deer population," the Republican said in a statement. He added that in addition to attracting hunters to the southern parts of Georgia, the new law will help keep down the booming population of feral hogs.
"The cost of crop damage from feral hogs is tremendous, and this legislation helps Georgia farmers protect their livelihood," Deal said.
Hunters in Georgia have been able to lay bait for deer and hogs but were only permitted to hunt them from 200 yards away and from out of the line of sight of the feed.
The new law removes the distance restrictions in the southern part of the state.
Opponents labeled such hunting unsportsmanlike and unethical. But supporters said it's needed to lure hunters to the area.
The bill stirred passionate debate in the House and the Senate when lawmakers debated it during the legislative session.
Deal on Friday also signed a bill designed to promote responsible agriculture in Georgia. It provides a tighter definition for sustainable agriculture that both producers and consumers understand.
"Growing Georgia's economy through sustainable agriculture is critical to ensuring that we have a viable future for Georgia's No. 1 industry," Deal said.